Do What You Can, Where You Are

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by all of the needs around you, and wonder where in the world to start trying to make a difference? (And then secretly wonder how much of a difference you can actually make, anyway?)

I’ve been thinking about that a lot this weekend. My mom took us girls to visit some of her friends here in the missionary village, and we learned all about how these sweet ladies are pouring out their hearts, sending help overseas for orphans and street-children in faraway countries.

One lady has always loved stamps, and started collecting them when she was six years old.

Seventy years later, she’s still collecting stamps, selling them to other stamp collectors, and using the money to bless other people.


Another lady learned how to sew when she was nine years old, and now, she’s sewing dresses, skirts, blouses, and shorts for orphans in Liberia, China, and the Dominican. She’s made 700 outfits for orphans in the last six years.


What struck me the most about these ladies was that they took something they’ve always loved doing, and started doing that…for Jesus.

In the beginning, maybe it looked like a small thing to do, but because they’ve faithfully stuck with it, they’ve been able to make a huge difference.

I watched Anika bending over to look at old stamps, and I wondered what kinds of things are being planted in her heart right now. What will she love, what gifts will she have that she could still be using someday, many years from now, to bless the people around her?


And what can I do, which might seem small, but could become huge with time, and lots of faithfulness?

Frederick Buechner said,

“The place where God calls you is where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep hunger.”

How amazing to see these women taking what started as a childhood hobby, a skill they’ve spent a lifetime developing and enjoying, and offering that to Jesus.

We get these grand and glorious ideas in our heads of what would be useful to Jesus, and what will change the world in some bold, flashy, courageous acts of faith.

I believe that God is still using bold, flashy, and courageous, but sometimes He seems to love using small and ordinary, too.


What’s your “little thing”? Any ideas out there for how God can use us in small ways, done with a big heart and great faithfulness?





Chucking the Five-Year Plan: Part One

I’ve had a lifelong fear that God would send me to China as a missionary.

As a kid, I always thought that “following God” would mean that He would make me do everything I most did not want to do. And in my mind, for whatever reason, that meant being a missionary in China.

There’s nothing wrong with China. Many (many, many) people are very happy living there. Many people are happy to go there as missionaries.

I would just not be one of them. I’m not really a China kind of girl. I’m more of a European type of girl. Or even South America. But not China.

*I realize that even admitting this is dangerous. I also said once that I would never marry anyone with the same last name as me, and here I am – a Dueck for life.

Anyway. I went to Providence College for 3 years right after high school, and I went there with a plan. I was only going to go for two years, and then I was going to go to Red River College to get my degree in advertising art. When I look back and remember that, it’s funny what a bad idea that seems now, but what a good idea it seemed at the time.

During my first year at Prov, I had an experience with God that changed the rest of my life.

Every fall, Providence has a missions conference. I dreaded it for weeks before it happened.

There are tons of sessions to go to, and missionaries to meet, and the whole gym is filled with booths of all the different missions organizations that you could possibly think of.

All of my friends were excited about it. They actually wanted to go on missions, so they thought the booths were interesting. I thought they were all a trap to send me straight to China.

I avoided that gymnasium as though my life depended on it.

Every time my friends would be heading to the gym to check out the booths, they would ask me if I was coming. I would make up some kind of lame excuse, and go back to dorm for a nap.

And I escaped those booths …until the night before the very last day of the conference.

That night, I had an experience so strange and powerful that it’s kind of difficult to explain. When I remember it, it reminds me of the story of Jacob, wrestling with an angel.

I emotionally wrestled with God that night. All night.

We wrestled over China…I thought. But it became clear to me that God wasn’t actually trying to get me to China. He just wanted me to surrender. EVERYTHING. He wanted me to be willing to do whatever He wanted me to do, even if it meant going to China. But it didn’t necessarily mean China.

It was as though I could hear Him, not with my ears, but just inside of me, saying, “Let go,” again and again.

And I felt somehow that He was calling me to trust Him – that He knew far better than I did what was best for my life. I hung on very tightly to my five-year plan, and to my ideas for my future, and to my stubbornness. I like to be in control. I did not want to give that up.

It went on like that until morning. And then suddenly, I realized that I was just tired of it all – of trying to run from Him, figuring it all out on my own, and being scared of uncertainty.

Suddenly, I had this strange desire embrace uncertainty.

So I let go. And I said, “Okay, God, I’ll do whatever You want me to do.”

And then I had peace.

I went to sleep, and when I woke up, I threw my application to Red River into the garbage. That day, I went into the gym. I checked out all the booths, and…I had fun. They were interesting.

I didn’t feel called to China. I didn’t have a clue what I was going to do, but for the first time in my life, that was okay.

image credit: Arvind Balaraman